Michael Anissimov ‘Debunks’ Ray Kurzweil – Pot Calls Kettle Black

A while ago, Michael Anissimov wrote the following post:

http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2013/07/the-colloidal-silver-crowd-debunks-transhumanism/

In it, he pits Kurzweil against the colloidal silver crowd. In doing so, he makes a few screw ups of his very own.

I posted a comment to his post calling him out on it. But he never published it. So here it is:

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A few observations:

1. Nano assemblers might still be sometime off, but the first generation of nanobots already exists. That’s way earlier than most people would have expected it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5KLTonB3Pg). Jim von Ehr has stated he expects rudimentary digital matter between 2015 – 2020 (http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/05/diamond-mechanosynthesis-paper-from.html). That’s straight from the horse’s mouth. You can’t ignore a near term prediction like that, especially not from a person with the necessary authority in the field.

2. Kurzweil’s rebuttal to your rebuttal was actually pretty good. The reason why people tend to get disappointed with future predictions, is because their expectations were too high. Take the 3D circuitry for example. Kurzweil correctly pointed out that 3D circuitry is already being done today, as he predicted. But 3D circuitry is typically one of those things that isn’t going to make us happy directly. Us humans only care about the benefit of more computational power. So was the 3D circuitry prediction incorrect, just because the arrival of 3D circuitry didn’t end up making us feel like we’re living in the future? Ofcourse not. Defensive pessimism might be a good ego protector. But the problem with it is that it is not rational and as such leads us to incorrect conclusions.

3. Making predictions is pretty hard, especially about the future. I thought it was an unwritten rule for anybody not named Kurzweil to not try and predict the future beyond 2030. But yet you state confidently we will not be immortal cyborgs by 2045. How can you possible know this? Just because Kurzweil is, in your opinion, overly optimistic about things in the present, that means all of his predictions are always going to be wrong? What about the ones where he was simply too pessimistic? What about the extremely early arrival of the self driving car? Kurzweil was not predicting that to happen until much later. Do Kurzweil’s overly pessimistic predictions not count? Do they not average out the ones where he was overly optimistic? If Kurzweil’s timetable is ‘one decade too early’, does that mean we can safely conclude we’ll be immortal cyborgs by 2055 then? Because that would mean predicting the future even further beyond 2030.

4. If you believe that the future is not accelerating exponentially, as you have stated sometime ago already, then I can imagine that you feel like you can confidently predict what will (or won’t) happen. However, I think your fall from the exponential bandwagon is caused by emotional reasons and therefore not rational. It still looks to me like the future is accelerating plenty exponential. The early arrival of quantum computers, first generation nanobots and the self driving car have me convinced technology is moving even faster than I had anticipated only 3 years ago. If the future is indeed accelerating exponentially, as I suspect it is doing, then it’s a typical case of ‘bend it like Beckham’. It’s extremely hard to predict the path of an exponential curve. So (some of) Kurzweil’s predictions might turn out to be wrong, but the exact same goes for your predictions about his predictions. If Kurzweil and the colloidal silver crowd can be wrong, then every crowd can be wrong. Including you and me. Predicting what won’t happen, is just as silly as predicting what will happen.

5. Don’t forget that the Maes-Garreau law turned out to be incorrect (http://lesswrong.com/lw/e36/ai_timeline_predictions_are_we_getting_better/). The article’s conclusion is as follows: “There is no evidence that predictors are predicting AI happening towards the end of their own life expectancy.”. That means Kurzweil’s predictions aren’t necessarily wrong because he conveniently predicts them to occur within his lifetime (because he isn’t).

Has The World Economy Spiraled Into A Permanent Downturn, Or Is There Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

With the economy being what it is, it is no wonder that many people are starting to question whether it will ever return to its former glory. In the history of mankind, an economic downturn has never lasted as long as it has in recent years. It all started in 2008, when the sub prime housing catastrophe started hitting the mainstream media. And the economy wasn’t even doing very well in the years prior to 2008. Why is the recent economic downturn taking so long to recover?

There are many things to factor in. But the most important one has to be, beyond the shadow of any doubt, technology. As long as there has been an economy, it was always technology that has led to bubbles, which sadly always tend to implode. The most recent technology bubble the world has experienced is the IT boom in the nineties. Back in those days, every guy that had read a “How To Build Websites For Dummies” book was able to get a job building websites.

Everything was possible. The sky was the limit. The economic upturn knew no boundaries. Surely, this would just go on and on forever. Or would it? As it turns out, people often have an inflated expectation of the limits of any given contemporary technology. In the case of the IT boom, it was assumed by many budding IT companies that it was possible to create endless supplies of cheaply created software and sell it at extremely high prices. As it turns out, the demand for cheap software had its limit after all.

Many shattered illusions later, the world economy has seen other revolutionary technological advancements. The epitome of this advancement is definitely the rise of the smartphone and the tablet. Who in the year 2000 would ever have thought that by the year 2010 we’d have mobile gadgets that seemed to come straight from an episode of Star Trek? The mobile device revolution has opened up a whole new world for both gadget manufacturers as well as software developers worldwide.

And while mobile gadgets have certainly contributed to the growth of the Internet and also the quality of life, there is one thing that they haven’t contributed to… the number of jobs available! And if there is anything that counts when it comes to getting the economy going again, it is jobs. Many media outlets are speaking of a jobless recovery. And every single time that the jobless recovery is mentioned, another thing is mentioned as well… robotics.

It was at the beginning of 2011 that Google came up with the world’s first self driving car which, at the time of writing, already has a registered 300,000 miles driven without accident. Then there is IBM’s Watson computer, also introduced at the beginning of 2011. Watson was able to beat Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings in a competition of answering knowledge questions. These accomplishments in artificial intelligence and robotics have quite the transformative impact on the world’s economy.

Take Google’s autonomous car, for instance. It has the potential to replace many, many jobs. Taxi drivers, truck drivers, limousine drivers and more. It is estimated that a total of 10% of all jobs in the USA are related to transport. Can Google’s autonomous car wipe out 10% of all jobs in the coming few years?

What about Watson? Watson has recently been fed many decades worth of cancer diagnostics and is now able to come up with cancer treatment plans based on a patient’s diagnosis. Doctors are saying that Watson’s proposed treatment plans are better than the ones they themselves can come up with. Watson is essentially a knowledge dispensing machine. How many percent of all jobs have something to do with the dispensing of knowledge? Next to medical workers, I imagine lawyers would also be at risk of losing their jobs because of this technology.

Currently, Amazon and many other companies, have replaced their warehouse staff with robots. Robots are cheaper than human staff and work all day long without complaint. They are more efficient at their jobs. Because of these warehouse robots, big companies are making more money than ever… with fewer personnel.

Is there no hope, then, for the common people? Is technology destined to increase the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor even more?

No, not by a long shot.

Technology has always increased the quality of life for everybody. The economic crisis of the 1930s robbed many people of their homes. But that was because people in those days didn’t own a lot more than just their house and some basic furniture. These days, everybody owns a car, a computer, multiple mobile devices, a television and whatnot. A financial crisis in the 21st century means having to give up a lot of luxuries. But not necessarily the house.

Sure, people have lost their houses in the recent financial crisis. But not nearly as many lost their house in recent years as in the 1930s.

Technology is poised to keep increasing the quality of life. And just as the financial crisis of current times isn’t nearly as bad as the crisis in the 1930, so too will a financial crisis of 2030 not be nearly as bad as the current one.

And while it is true that technology keeps on replacing human jobs as automation continues, it is also true that technology makes life cheaper. When new technology is first released, it is expensive. As new technology ages and is replaced by yet newer technology, the price comes down. This is the reason why you can buy a more powerful smartphone every year for the exact same $500.

A good example of a technology that can lower the price of living, is solar power. Solar power is said to reach ‘grid parity’ (read: just as cheap as conventional energy sources) in the USA this year, 2013. Solar power has already reached grid parity in Spain in December 2012. Other countries in both Europe as well as the USA will surely follow.

There are many more advances possible when it comes to solar technology. Solar power has the potential to become extremely cheap. Battery technology is improving as well. Better battery technology makes it easier to store solar power. Solar power that is cheap and easy to store, will eventually attract the attention of power supply companies worldwide. They will switch from convential energy sources to solar power. Competition will drive prices down.

Energy prices worldwide have the potential to come plummeting down in the next decade or two. Lower energy prices translates to a lower cost of living. A lower cost of living will restore purchasing power to the people. Greater purchasing power will cause consumers to spend more money. Consumers spending more money, in turn, leads to a better economy.

While things may seem bad at the moment, rest assured that the economy is still moving from upturn to downturn to upturn, ad infinitum. There will be better times. And they might arrive here sooner than you think!

Simple with Sim Only Deals

The more savvy amongst the mobile phone and iPad user population have known about the advantages of sim only deals for several years; some of the rest of us have taken time to catch up! GiffGaff were the pioneers of the sim only offering in the UK, using the 02 network, but other network providers were quick to jump on the bandwagon, so there’s now healthy competition between the main operators. You will find that when you are researching the best sim only deals GiffGaff remain leaders in the field, their per minute price of 10p comparing very favorably with the competition.

So what are the advantages of sim only deals? Simplicity, for a start – buying just a sim card without a handset releases you from being tied in to a long-term contract, and most sim only contracts run for a minimum term of 30 days.

Cost-saving is another big advantage offered by the sim only deal. Because the network operator is not subsidising the cost of handsets to its customers, it can afford to make significant reductions to its tariffs.

The flexibility that a sim only contract offers allows you to change the tariff regime that you are on from one month to the next, depending on your circumstances; and if you are dissatisfied with the coverage offered by your network operator in your area – it’s easy to switch! You may also be wanting to snap up the next iPhone or iPad when it comes on the market, and a sim only deal gives you the flexibility to keep your monthly contracts ticking over whilst waiting for its arrival.

A greater choice of handset can also be available to you from retailers, as some network operators have a more limited menu to offer their contract customers. However, this might also be the point at which you discover one of the potential drawbacks of sim only deals. For buying handsets on their own can be expensive, and you are likely to have to do quite a bit of shopping around to find a deal that anywhere near matches what you would be offered if were on a longer-term contract with a network operator.

If you prefer not to have to give either time or thought to your mobile phone bill, but just to pay it when it comes in, then sim only deals are probably not for you. They do require you to be proactive in researching the best offers, month by month, and to keep track of your usage so that you ensure you are on the most suitable tariff. You may need to monitor you text, voice and internet minutes carefully to make sure that you don’t go over your allocation, as this can get very expensive.

Coming Soon – Genome Sequencing at a GP Surgery Near You

Since the first full human genome was successfully sequenced in 2000, genome sequencing has grown into a competitive research field, with investors keen to produce a robust, commercially viable genome sequencer for public use. Tough competition within the industry has already driven down prices, and you can now have your entire genome sequenced within a day for just $1,000 – it’s a long way from the initial price of £2.3 billion in 2003! And it’s about to get a lot cheaper, as some soon-to-be-released new technology makes it possible to sequence DNA on laptops using a small USB device.

The complete human genome consists of around six billion characters, and is a complete set of instructions for creating one unique human being. This information is stored in virtually every cell in the human body, so it can be obtained from tiny samples of tissue such as hair (as long as it contains the hair follicle), saliva, or bone marrow.

This data can then be analysed to determine the likelihood of that person developing certain health problems, or of passing on certain hereditary conditions to their offspring. The person could then use this information to inform their lifestyle choices. For example, if the test showed a high risk of a certain type of cancer, they could adjust their diet and lifestyle to help prevent that type of cancer, or go for diagnostic scans even before they develop any symptoms. Therefore, they could reduce their risk of getting that type of cancer, and if they do develop it, they will be more likely to catch it before it spreads.

At present, scientists have a fairly limited knowledge of what each gene does, and how they interact with others. While a large number of genes have been identified as having a specific function, there is still a very long way to go. However, new advances are being made on a regular basis, which means that a genome map plotted today will become more and more useful to the patient and to medical professionals as time goes on.

While genome sequencing is still in its infancy, its potential benefits, both for providers and patients, are massive. Huge sums of money are being poured into research in this field, and competition between rival providers is fierce. The upshot of this is that prices have dropped substantially, and will continue to drop in future. A new desktop genome sequencer called the Ion Proton sequencer, which was released in January 2012, costs just $149,000, which means that people can get their entire genome back within a day for around $1,000 a pop.

However, even this will look steep once the MinIon USB protein sequencer, developed by Oxford Nanopore, hits the market. This device, which is little bigger than a USB pen drive, is set to cost around $900, bringing it within the financial reach of GP surgeries and clinics around the world. In theory, you could even buy one yourself and sequence your own DNA on your laptop – although unless you are a highly skilled geneticist, making any sense out of the vast reams of data produced will most likely be beyond your capabilities!

Sources:
http://www.nanoporetech.com/
http://www.gizmag.com/ion-proton-sequencer-decodes-dna/21092/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_genome_sequencing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_genomics
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aEUlnq6ltPpQ

Abundance The Book – Review

Abundance is a new book written by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, both of whom hope that humanity will be able to solve most of its major problems within two or three decades. The ambitious scale of this hope is undeniable, but the pair believe that evidence in the world around us suggest that things are getting better at a staggering rate, despite what many might assume.

Technology is the focus of Abundance and the authors are keen to point out that the book is not about creating a world in which everyone is rich, but one in which the quality of life is universally improved to a point far beyond current expectations.

The authors identify mobile technology as being one of the most important driving forces behind an abundant planet. Smartphones and other portable devices, which allow for a greater degree of interconnectedness that transcends geographic locations, will help to create new markets and drive the global economy. Meanwhile the five billion people who will be able to log onto the internet by 2020 will further allow an international audience to join the global conversation, according to the authors of the book.

The democratisation of communication tools is a central part of the argument in Abundance, which suggests that big problems do not need enormous teams and huge amounts of funding thrown at them to be solved. Instead smaller groups, or a collaborative global movement, can approach things like healthcare, food and education and look to remedy issues as a collective.

While there is plenty of doom and gloom in the media on a daily basis, Abundance aims to put a positive spin on the current state of the world. It looks at the so-called `rising billion`, otherwise known as the poorest billion people across the globe and points out that they are now forming a rising market which is helping to shrug off the sever poverty in which they were trapped in the past. Even between 2005 and 2008 the number of people living in poverty declined significantly according to the World Bank, which is evidenced by the authors as being indicative of ever-growing abundance.

The power of technology will help with what the authors call dematerialisation, which essentially refers to the lower cost of computing power and a decreasing emphasis on physical products which are required to get the job done. The power of cloud computing, which is beginning to permeate the markets for smartphones and tablets used by consumers and not just the business world, will have a significant role to play in this. If you have any interest in the future shape of the world and the way in which technology and people can influence it in a positive way, then Abundance will almost certainly have something to offer. It is uplifting, but more important is the fact that it remains interesting throughout, easily justifying the hype which has surrounded it and its position on the best-sellers list.

SOPA: The US Government Is Trying To Kill The Internet As You Know It

Do you enjoy using the Internet on a daily basis to do whatever the hell you want to do?

Then you better act now, because your precious Internet is under attack!

US Congress is trying to shove through a bill called SOPA, aka the Stop Online Piracy Act.

SOPA is a draconian bill that will give Hollywood way too much power over the Internet. You could go to jail for posting a YouTube video of yourself singing along to a copyrighted song.

Congress is rushing the bill and an important vote on it will be held this Wednesday, December 21st.

Thankfully, the Internet learns quickly and progress against SOPA is being made.

Do you want to contribute to saving the Internet from pure evil acts such as SOPA and Protect IP?

Don’t know where to start?

Please read Google’s Matt Cutts’ blog post about SOPA, where he gives you a couple of suggestions to help out!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post.

News Science Harvard Scientists Reverse The Ageing Process In Mice – Now For Humans

Harvard scientists were surprised that they saw a dramatic reversal, not just a slowing down, of the ageing in mice. Now they believe they might be able to regenerate human organs.

Scientists claim to be a step closer to reversing the ageing process after rejuvenating worn out organs in elderly mice. The experimental treatment developed by researchers at Harvard Medical School turned weak and feeble old mice into healthy animals by regenerating their aged bodies.

The surprise recovery of the animals has raised hopes among scientists that it may be possible to achieve a similar feat in humans – or at least to slow down the ageing process.

An anti-ageing therapy could have a dramatic impact on public health by reducing the burden of age-related health problems, such as dementia, stroke and heart disease, and prolonging the quality of life for an increasingly aged population.

“What we saw in these animals was not a slowing down or stabilisation of the ageing process. We saw a dramatic reversal – and that was unexpected,” said Ronald DePinho, who led the study, which was published in the journal Nature.

“This could lead to strategies that enhance the regenerative potential of organs as individuals age and so increase their quality of life. Whether it serves to increase longevity is a question we are not yet in a position to answer.”

The ageing process is poorly understood, but scientists know it is caused by many factors. Highly reactive particles called free radicals are made naturally in the body and cause damage to cells, while smoking, ultraviolet light and other environmental factors contribute to ageing.

The Harvard group focused on a process called telomere shortening. Most cells in the body contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, which carry our DNA. At the ends of each chromosome is a protective cap called a telomere. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres are snipped shorter, until eventually they stop working and the cell dies or goes into a suspended state called “senescence”. The process is behind much of the wear and tear associated with ageing.

Source

Guide to iPad SIM cards

There’s no doubt that one of the coolest gadgets currently on the market for enjoying the convenience of mobile internet on the go is the Apple iPad. This amazing little tablet computing device allows you to browse the web, check email plus carry out all of the other day to day computing tasks in the luxury confines of a fabulous flat-screen.

Better still, thanks to mobile broadband you can take it just about anywhere and still keep surfing, no matter what sort of surroundings you’re in. The basic version of the Apple iPad only comes with Wi-Fi, but if you splash out another £100 or so you’ll be able to get the model that comes with 3G, which means you can connect to the mobile network throughout the UK.

Explore your options

In order to get onto the mobile network here you’ll need to first buy your Apple iPad device and then explore the deals that are available for the iPad SIM card. This is a sliver of plastic, a bit like the SIM cards that come with mobile phones, although it is smaller so regular SIM’s will not fit the iPad. In that respect you’ll need to search for a dedicated iPad SIM, which can be done via a comparison website such as Broadband Genie.

While the Apple iPad is still a fairly new device, the deals for iPad SIM cards are not exactly plentiful but if you use a free comparison service such as this you’ll be able to quickly and easily find the sort of deal that is best for your needs. It’s possible to get iPad SIM card deals in a couple of different incarnations too, with pay-as-you-go being a good idea for anyone watching their finances.

You can use this route to buy the iPad SIM and simply top it up as you need available credit and you only pay for the time you are connected and the data that you use. This is a great idea for lightweight internet users who only casually browse the web and dip into email. Heavier users might want to have a look at a contract deal and these start from as little as one-month rolling contracts, right through to longer term options.

Terms of use

Whichever route you decide to take with the Apple iPad then you’ll need to check the terms and conditions of any deal. This is so you can be sure that the package that you pick will fit the bill. One thing to watch for is data usage conditions, which determines how much content you can download and upload during a particular time period. If you download movies and music, for example, this can use up a quota of data usage, so check that the deal you want caters for this.

Mobile broadband can also be subject to coverage issues sometimes, in the same way as a mobile phones, although you can use the humble comparison website to check coverage levels and also the speed that can be expected, using free online tools. This will enable you to pick a package that not only fits the bill, but also choose the one that fits how much you wish to spend.

Be wary of using the iPad overseas too, as this might be affected by ‘roaming’ charges, which can be costly in much the same way as mobile phones are costly to use when you’re on holiday. Aside from that small downside, the Apple iPad is a fantastic way to stay online while you’re on the move.

About the author: Rob Clymo writes on behalf of www.broadbandgenie.co.uk, the independent comparison website for broadband, mobile broadband and smartphones.

North Carolina Researchers Indicate How Water Based ‘Artificial Leaf’ Generates Electricity

Are you aware that a North Carolina State University staff showed that water gel-based solar devices (named: “artificial leaves”) can work like solar cells to create electricity?

The research has been released on-line within the Journal of Materials Chemistry by Doctor. Orlin Velev, an Invista Professor associated with Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering.

The conclusions prove the idea for making solar cells that more closely mimic nature. They also have the possibility to be cheaper and more beneficial to our environment than the current standard silicon based solar cells.

The bendable units are composed of water-based gel infused along with light-sensitive molecules (like plant chlorophyll) coupled with electrodes coated by carbon elements, such as carbon nanotubes or graphite.

Graphene is the fundamental structural element of a number of carbon allotropes including graphite, carbon nanotubes and fullerenes. Graphene is a one-atom thick planar sheet of carbon atoms that are largely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. The title comes from graphite ene; graphite itself consists of numerous graphene sheets piled together.

The light-sensitive molecules get “excited” by the sun’s rays to make electricity, similar to plant molecules that get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow.

Dr. Velev affirms that the research team hopes to “learn how to copy the materials by which nature harnesses solar energy.” Although manufactured light-sensitive molecules can be used, Velev says naturally derived products, like chlorophyll, are also effortlessly integrated in these devices because of their water-gel matrix.

Velev even imagines a future in which rooftops could be covered with soft sheets of similar electrical power-generating man-made-leaf solar cells. The concept of biologically inspired ‘soft’ products for generating electricity may possibly in the future provide an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies.

About the Author: Colleen Mcguire produces for the solar fountains for the garden blog, her personal hobby blog focused on guidelines to help home owners to spend a smaller amount energy with solar energy.

Reference: Aqueous soft matter based pv devices. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 2011; DOI: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2011/JM/c0jm01820a